Today's exercise is a fantastic one for dealing with tension in the body. It's called the semi supine or lying down exercise.
So why is this exercise so important? Well, It helps you think about widening and lengthening your body (all without tension of course). We start by doing it lying down but once you're familiar with it you could use the same idea to help increase body mindfulness as you move throughout your day.
Before you start you will need to make a few simple preparations. Find yourself a quiet space big enough for you to lie down flat. Maybe on a rug or carpet on the floor is ideal or a massage couch if you have one but not on a bed. It won't give you enough support.
You'll need to find a couple of books of a combined height of 3-5cm. It would also be useful to keep a couple extra beside you at the start of the exercise just in case you need to adjust the height. Once you are ready to begin and have ten minutes free, kick off your shoes and get started.
You can either listen to the audio below or read through the instructions
The lying down exercise - instructions
Place your books on the floor and very gently lie down on your back so that the books are under your head – not touching your neck but supporting the back of the head.
If your throat feels exposed and your head is tipping back then the books are probably too low and you are going to need to add a little more height. Try one book at a time until you feel comfortable. If on the other hand your throat feels constricted then you will need to take a book away. You are aiming for a height that enables your eyes to comfortably rest at an angle of about 45 degrees above your body.
Play around with the height of the books until you feel comfortable. And breathe. Not altering the breath in any way, but just noticing the air coming in and out, gently in and out. Keeping your eyes open and remaining fully aware of your surroundings.
So when you are ready, bring one foot up and place it flat on the floor so that the instep is parallel with the knee of the straight leg. Then, keeping the feet hip width apart, do the same with the other foot so that both knees are pointing up towards the ceiling. If the knees want to splay apart or touch each other, just bring them back to hip width apart, maintaining that awareness of them pointing up towards the ceiling.
You are not aiming to force your lower back on the floor but just allow your lower back to curve gently towards the floor. Your lower back may touch the floor, or it might not, just allowing it to be where it is and not forcing it anywhere.
Place your hands on your abdomen, with your elbows resting on the floor so that your abdomen has space ........and breathe. Your eyes open. Try to stay aware of the present moment and pay attention to your body. If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back. If your eyes glaze just notice what you can see. It’s a constant process of attention in to your body and back out to your surroundings.. in and out gentle and soft like the breath.
Now turn your attention to your head resting on the books. I want you to allow the books to take the full weight of your head, allowing the neck to be fully supported by the head so that it is relaxed. You can also think about the neck lengthening away from the body without strain. Allow the face to soften and the jaw to lengthen and relax …place the tongue so that it rests behind the bottom teeth. Soften the muscles around the eyes. … and breathe….
Move your attention to your shoulders. If they aren’t touching the floor don’t force them down. But allow the front of your chest to expand so that each shoulder is widening in the opposite direction. You don’t have to do anything to achieve this, there’s nothing to force… simply have the thought of your body flattening, widening and lengthening onto the floor.
And let’s think about your arms. So I’d like you to think about there being space in the joints. In your shoulder joint, space in the elbow, in the wrist and in all the joints of the hand and the fingers. Just imagine as you take your awareness to each of these joints that there is more space, more room for the joint to move freely. And allow each arm to lengthen from the shoulder joint all the way down to the finger tips. Not to do anything, or force just to have the thought that the arms are lengthening.
Notice how your back is making contact with the floor ……is this contact even or does one side feel more in contact than the other? Just notice what’s going on…don’t try to make too many adjustments other than softening any part of the body where you feel tension. Your aim is to let go of any tension, allow the floor to take the weight of your body and let go of any holding on.
Come back to the face and just make sure that it is still relaxed and soft and breathe.
Notice the length of your back and imagine that your neck is lengthening away from your tail bone and your lower back is widening….so that you are widening across the front of the pelvis. Soften in the groin area.
Think of your knees pointing up towards the ceiling, lengthening out of the hip joint. Feel your legs lengthening, resisting the temptation to hold onto them in the hips and groin. The aim is for you to be doing as little as possible. You can think of it as an exercise in non-doing if you like.
Feel the connection of your feet with the floor. Allow each toe to lengthen as your feet widen and lengthen.
Enjoy this wonderful feeling of your whole body being supported by the floor, lengthening and widening. Again if there is any tension anywhere, notice it and then see if you can just let it go so that the body softens. Remember to breathe.
So now very gently move your head from side to side and start to move your body. You may like to hug your knees into your lower back and then rock gently from side to side.
When you are ready and in your own time, I’d like you to get up very slowly, keeping that lovely feeling of release in your body. So roll slowly over to one side, rolling until you are in an all fours position. Keeping your neck free of any tension and your back long, place one foot next to your hands and then the other foot. Slowly and carefully stand up.